Having a bubbly kind of week

Published 12:35 am Sunday, March 14, 2010

NATCHEZ — You could say I’ve been feeling a little bubbly this week.

No, it’s not any champagne in which I’ve been partaking. It’s just that time of the year in college basketball, especially when you are a fan of a team on the infamous “bubble.”

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a proud Mississippi State graduate and fan of all the Bulldogs’ sports teams.

And with Mississippi State fighting for one of the last spots in the NCAA basketball tournament, this has been a week full of frustration, exhilaration and anticipation all wrapped up into one.

I, like the fans of fellow bubble teams Minnesota, Illinois, Seton Hall and SEC bubblers Florida and Ole Miss, have been checking the Web site that updates each team’s Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI, which is a mathematical formula that ranks teams 1-347 in the country.

I’ve also been watching ESPN and their expert “Bracketologist” Joe Lunardi, who has made a living of trying to predict which teams will make the NCAA tournament and where they will be seeded.

College basketball fans take Lunardi’s predictions as the gospel, even though he is in no way connected with the NCAA tournament selection committee.

The thing that Lunardi does that fans look at the most is the “Last four teams in” and “First four teams out” of the tournament.

When your team’s name scrolls across the bottom of the ESPN screen as being in the first four in, it’s celebration time. But if they are in the last four teams out, it’s time to start sweating.

Two nights ago, things weren’t looking too good for the Bulldogs. They were coming off a 16-point home loss to Tennessee and weren’t even listed in Lunardi’s first four out.

But once the SEC tournament began, things started to change.

A Friday night win over Florida, coupled with losses by some bubble teams in front of the Bulldogs, namely Rhode Island, Dayton and Ole Miss, moved the Bulldogs into the first four teams out list.

But Friday’s excitement didn’t compare with the adrenaline rush that Saturday brought.

It started with watching the Conference USA tournament championship game between UTEP and Houston. Why was this important? Because UTEP is already solidly in the field while Houston had no shot at an at large big.

So when Houston won the game and the C-USA automatic bid, it stole an at-large bid from a bubble team, possibly Mississippi State.

But a bit of good news came a couple of hours later when Ohio State outlasted bubble team Illinois in double overtime. I, and other MSU fans, breathed a sigh of relief at that one, especially since Illinois was ahead of MSU at the beginning of the day.

But both of those results would be meaningless if the Bulldogs didn’t beat Vanderbilt in the SEC tourney semifinals.

Two hours of pacing the floor brought a 62-52 MSU victory and a spot as Joe Lunardi’s very last team in the field — for now.

It didn’t help that Washington, which was a bubble team, beat California to win the Pac 10’s automatic bid, or that bubble team Minnesota throttled Purdue to reach the Big 10 title game.

But after a thrilling Saturday, my team’s bubble is still floating. Now I have to go through it all over again today.

Hey, nobody said life on the bubble is easy. But it sure is exciting.